DVD Release Date: December 21, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: August 24, 2012
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action, Suspense
Run Time: 90 minutes
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Dania Ramirez, Jamie Chung, Lauren Ashley Carter, Sean Kennedy

Considering it’s the time of year where most new movies are, let’s just say, not exactly the cream of the crop, it’s a rather bold move calling something Premium Rush when such a simple premise is involved.

Fortunately for anyone looking for one last adrenaline rush before summer officially draws to a close, there’s plenty to love here, thanks to engaging, thrill-a-minute storytelling. Proving the adage that less can, indeed, be so much more when executed properly, the movie is anchored by the standout performance of the likeable Joseph Gordon Levitt (The Dark Knight Rises) as Wilee, a law school grad who now spends the bulk of his time pedaling through Manhattan as a bike messenger.

See, as promising as his future prospects looked as a lawyer, the appropriately named Wilee simply couldn’t imagine loving a predictable life in a suit. So he opted for an exciting outdoor gig with plenty of risks involved instead. Armed with nothing more than a fixed-gear bike (read: no brakes), a helmet and a mind that’s practically hard-wired for predicting what could possibly go wrong (the filmmakers have a very intriguing way of showcasing this), Wilee enjoys the endless thrills of navigating New York City traffic.

But on a seemingly ordinary day, the seemingly ordinary task of delivering an envelope to Chinatown ends up being a game-changer for Wilee, who’s already having a bad day after a fight with his girlfriend, Vanessa (Dania Ramirez, American Reunion). Now assigned to a rush delivery for someone named Sister Chen, he’s basically got 90 minutes to jet down Broadway and make his deadline—no small feat, given his starting point.

Trouble is, there are a few unplanned wrinkles as he makes his way from Point A to Point B. One is having a rather hot-headed police officer with a gambling problem, Bobby Monday (a scene-stealing Michael Shannon, Machine Gun Preacher) hot on his trail with alternate plans for the package. Another is a pesky bike cop (and no, he’s not the requisite comic relief) who doesn’t exactly approve of Wilee’s risky maneuvers.

With a satellite view and a clock that pops up periodically to show viewers just how little time Wilee has left to complete the mission, there’s a sense of urgency that ultimately allows the audience to feel like they’re part of the action in Premium Rush. And with the precision of a well-played Chess game, the pieces are moved around in such a satisfying fashion that you’re actually surprised by a number of the superbly choreographed twists and turns along the way—not something you can say for most films these days.

What also helps keeps things moving along are clever bits of exposition juxtaposed with the action sequences. Providing little clues of why Detective Monday is so enamored with the envelope with the golden ticket inside anyway, it helps set the stage for an epic showdown by film’s end. 

While definitely not the stuff of Oscar bait or something that will probably make most film critics’ year-end list of favorites, Premium Rush does deliver what most of us go to the movies for anyway—entertainment that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat. And that’s exactly how Premium Rush not only lives up to its name but provides an enjoyable, end-of-summer diversion.

CAUTIONS:

  • Violence: Given that Wilee and his co-workers ride bikes for a living in the busy streets of Manhattan, they have several close calls, and injuries are all part of a day’s work. We see bikers run into vehicles, tumble over railings, skid out on the road and smash into gates. In one particularly nasty spill, Wilee gets knocked out after flying through the air. He also cracks a couple of ribs. Detective Monday is shown torturing Wilee in the back of the ambulance in order to get information from him. A young girl is picked up the neck in a particularly cruel fashion. A man’s head is smashed into a truck’s bumper, and he later dies from his injuries. Brass knuckles are used in one scene. A bullet hits the back of someone’s head. A person’s tooth is knocked out.
  • Language/Profanity: A steady stream of profanity throughout including one f-bomb and multiple uses of bit--, bas----, as-, da--, shi- and he--. God’s name is paired with dam- on several occasions, plus Jesus’s name is also misused.
  • Sex/Nudity: No sex or nudity, just a couple of references to sex, and in one case, a sexually transmitted disease. Vanessa also tends to wear skimpy or cleavage-revealing clothing.
  • Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking and cigarette smoking. A reference to Ritalin.
  • Religion: Wilee says his approach to life is likely more Buddhist than anything else.

*This Review First Published 8/24/2012